• Emma Parry | Contributing Writer

Absentee ballots published

Records of an estimated 1,500 Baldwin County residents are among those that were released on a massive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet after the Nov. 6 general election.

Official registration records pertaining to over 291,000 submitted State of Georgia absentee ballots were published online on Wednesday by the office of recently resigned Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The statuses of elderly, disabled and overseas military were also made public alongside these citizens’ full names, voter registration numbers, home addresses, return addresses and ballot statuses.

There are no apparent rules about public records of elderly, disabled or overseas military personel, but active military status is not common knowledge. Exposure of any kind of military status could be detrimental to the safety of anyone in military service or their families.

“I am unaware of any law that prohibits the actions of the Secretary of State as they do not disclose dates of birth and social security numbers,” said GC Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Don Challis in an email.

Phone numbers, birthdates, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers are not publicly accessible but may circulate in other offices of the government.

The link to automatically download and view the document was live for at least two hours Wednesday night before it was removed from the official secretary of state elections website. Candice Broce, press secretary to newly installed Secretary of State Robyn A. Crittenden, did not respond immediately for comment on this matter.

National voter turnout was the highest that it has been for a midterm election in over 50 years, and youth voter turnout also broke records. e release of this personal information, however, could be concerning for many college students who voted via absentee ballot.

Laws in Georgia allow for the public availability of voter registration data, but usually, the data must be purchased on a non-commercial basis through a government web store. A statewide voter list costs $250, with a one-to-two-week electronic processing period.

Most Georgians do not know that their personal information is open for viewing, and there is no public record of who has purchased or accessed the information.

Data available for purchase can include active and inactive voters’ names, birth years, residential and mailing addresses, race, gender, party affiliation, registration dates and most recent voting dates.

This comes a year and a half after President Donald Trump created an executive advisory committee to inform him on vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for federal elections.

Numerous issues with malfunctioning voting machines occurred last Tuesday in locations around the state, and at some polling places, voters were left waiting for several hours to cast their ballots.

“I am proud that Georgia’s elections are among the most secure in the nation, and we take every measure possible to ensure the integrity, security and fairness of our elections process,” said Brian Kemp in a letter on his secretary of state elections website.

The secretary of state office has been criticized for outdated voting technology and poor security measures, especially after Georgia voter data has repeatedly made its way into the news for wiped servers, the purging of hundreds of thousands of voters and leaked information.

Public voter data is supposed to be only a mechanism to prevent voter fraud, but with the technology available in 2018 and attempts at election interference from other countries, many would argue that publishing this data for anyone to access is not in the best interest of Americans.

#ballots #absenteeballots #election


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